It seems a long old time ago now since Sheffield United were in the Premier League and being linked with some top young players.
Chris Wilder, having led United to ninth in the first season back in the top-flight, was looking to build on that season by landing some of the top young players in England.
Of course, in the end, Wilder did manage to sign Rhian Brewster and Aaron Ramsdale. Those two players have had completely different careers since then. Ramsdale is now Arsenal’s number one and flying. Brewster, meanwhile, has had injury after injury and has just a handful of goals for United.
Looking back at those Chris Wilder days, one player the Blades boss was apparently interested in signing was Arsenal youngster, Folarin Balogun.
Reports back in 2020 claimed United had bid £3m for Balogun. At the time, the Gunners didn’t want to sell, with The Daily Mail claiming a fee closer to £15m was more realistic.
It wasn’t to be for the Blades or Wilder. Balogun would go on to sign a new deal with Arsenal, although Wilder did eventually get his hands on the England youngster while in charge at Middlesbrough.
Now, just a few seasons down the line, Folarin Balogun is being tipped for greatness.
Balogun has been flying this season in a loan spell with French side Reims. The 21-year-old forward has smashed in 17 goals and is being tipped to make the switch to become a full USA international shortly.
And speaking about Balogun this past week, French football expert Julien Laurens believes the Arsenal man is on course to become one of the best forwards in the world.
“He was called up by England’s under-21s. I think he was disappointed not to be called up by Gareth Southgate. And I think he has a point,” he told The Gab and Juls Show podcast.
“This is not an issue with Ivan Toney or Harry Kane. But I don’t see why you can’t include him. I think England would be crazy. If England miss out on Balogun as an international player, ie he chooses the US or Nigeria, I think this would be terrible from an England point of view, because he’s got the potential to be one of the best in the world in the next few years, I think he’s that talented.”
Sheffield United News View: A case of what might have been
This is just what happens sometimes in football. There was obviously a reason why Chris Wilder wanted Balogun and it’s now abundantly clear what he saw in the young striker.
United, of course, got Rhian Brewster. At the moment, that hasn’t worked out very well but that doesn’t mean Brewster can’t go on to fire like Balogun is.
For Balogun, there is still a way to go as well. The French league is not the same as England and until he proves himself either at Arsenal or elsewhere in the Premier League, question marks will still be raised.
Still, it’s interesting to see a player we were so heavily linked with doing so well. If Balogun does indeed go onto be a world star as suggested, then United will look back with disappointment.